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Breast Cancer Awareness For Men – Fight Like A Girl

This month has so many causes. It’s Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and LGBT History Month. National Diabetes Month, National Pizza Month, and Sarcasm Month. But the one on my mind seems like a great topic for Q103. Especially considering everyone reading either is a man or knows a man.

If you can’t tell by the plethora of pink ribbons and pink-clad women running around, this month is also National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Even you fellas can get behind a cause like saving the boobies, right? Who doesn’t like boobies?

But today, I’m not talking to the women. I don’t think there’s a woman alive who doesn’t know she might develop breast cancer. Unfortunately, not everyone knows men can get breast cancer, too.

I’ll let that sink in for a minute.

The first time I heard of this, I was watching Oz. There’s this character named Ryan O’Reily, and he’s played by Dean Winters, the hottie in the Allstate mayhem commercials. If I had to guess why Dean got the Allstate mayhem commercials, I’d say it has something to do with the mayhem-causing bad boy he played in Oz.

Probably the most touching part of that character (if anything about a criminal mastermind can be touching) was his battle with breast cancer. To understand why, you have to know a little about Ryan O’Reily.

Ryan was one of a handful of Irishmen in a prison ran by men of other races and nationalities. He felt like this made him vulnerable, so he did everything in his power to make himself seem tougher than he was. And when he couldn’t do that, he killed his opposition.

Then, one day, his nipple started bleeding. After a couple tests, they gave Ryan the results, and Ryan lost his cool. For a while, he even considered refusing treatment because “there’s no way I have a girl’s disease.” He went through all the stages of loss; denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Even when he reached acceptance, Ryan was maniacal about making sure none of the other inmates found out. He felt like having a “woman’s disease” made him less of a man, and was sure the other inmates would see it that way, too.

This is a common reaction. To many men, the idea of having breast cancer isemasculating. And so even men who are aware of the possibility play with their lives by avoiding getting tested. Some who are diagnosed with breast cancer even go so far as to refuse treatment to maintain their own perception of their masculinity!

While it’s true only 1% of people diagnosed with breast cancer are men, the need for early diagnosis is much greater for a man. Twenty-seven percent of men diagnosed with breast cancer lose the battle every year. Only 19 percent of women diagnosed with breast cancer succumb to the disease.

The difference, they say, is in how quickly one is diagnosed and treated. Because so many men don’t realize they can develop breast cancer, they don’t do self exams. And because they don’t do self exams, the cancer isn’t caught until later stages. Since men have less between their breast tissue and chest wall, catching it late in the game increases the risk of cancer spreading to the major organs, severely decreasing the chance for survival. So you need to catch it early. But how?

Well, for starters, get to know your pecs and underarms. Feel them up at least once a month, and really pay attention to their texture. Check for changes in the skin and the tissue beneath the skin. And if you feel anything abnormal, get thee to a physician!

While I’m sure it was used in Oz for dramatic effect, a male nipple bleeding (or giving off any unusual  discharge) without injury is actually a symptom of male breast cancer. Others include “scaly” nipples, sores on or around the nipple and areola, an inverted nipple, or enlarged lymph nodes under your arm. The most common indication, though, is a firm, nonpainful lump just below the nipple.

Next week is Male Breast Cancer Awareness Week in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Massachusetts. So dig out that pink shirt your grandma sent last winter, and wear it with pride.

Real men wear pink. Fight like a girl. Save the pecs. Self exams: Just do it!

Pick a slogan, and get ‘er done. Your life depends on it.

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